Managing Your Team’s Workload With Agile Learning Design

Managing Your Team's Workload Banner

Wanting to work incrementally, iteratively, and collaboratively is all well and good, but at some point you have to manage the work and timeline.

Agile does not mean there isn’t any planning, but rather that planning is different. Instead of creating one plan at the beginning and using your time and energy trying to hold everyone to that plan (which never works), we spend our time identifying what work is a value-add and what can be worked on based on priorities and availability.How you manage that work is flexible and can be done using several different methods. Two that we’ve chosen to use at BLP include Kanban and Scrum.

Interested in learning more about agile learning design? Watch our webinar: Agile Learning Design: A Practical Perspective.

Using Kanban to Pull Work to Team

Kanban is a methodology to control the amount of work that the team is working on at any given time. It was created at Toyota to help maintain a consistent amount of work that a team can handle at any given time. In Kanban, the team pulls work onto their plates. The team also has set work in progress (WIP) limits that tell the team and the people they work with how much work they can do at any given time. When done correctly, the team can keep the pace of their work in progress limits indefinitely.

BLP has been using the Kanban approach for our client projects. Because each project team has multiple clients and projects going on at any given time, using a Scrum type method where we try to plan out a two week period is not workable.Kanban works really well for our project teams because it allows us to pull work into our workstream, especially when existing projects hit snags or delays.

Below is an example of a physical Kanban board our team used. Having a visual representation of what’s going on helps the team stay focused and know exactly what everyone is doing when. 



What About Scrum?

By Steven Boller, Marketing Director

Scrum is the methodology most people think of when they hear “agile.” At BLP, we use Scrum on our product development team. The marketing team also uses its own variation of Scrum.

The “Product Dev” team decided on Scrum because they needed a way to rapidly evolve our Knowledge Guru® product. Scrum is more focused on the user of a product than the process for creating it. Like Kanban, it allows teams to maximize resources and get everyone working together. In Scrum, tasks are completed in short sprints of 1-4 weeks. Every sprint produces a working version of the product, and tasks are based on “user stories.” (Example: Learners will be able to play an interactive game about using widget XYZ). The flow of work is managed with a backlog of tasks that will be completed in the future but have not been assigned. At the conclusion of each sprint, the Product Dev team conducts a sprint review to verify completion of previous stories and pull stories from the backlog to be completed in the next sprint.

Each story is assigned “points” based on how long it should take to complete. In our system, one point equals one day of work. Every team member has a certain number of story points they can complete in a given sprint, which controls the workload.
While the sprint reviews and planning meetings are time consuming, the planning of work has to be done eventually, anyway. Scrum makes the process more efficient and intentional. The team has been pleased with Scrum so far and cannot imagine going back.

“Our time is being used so much more effectively. Scrum holds us all accountable for doing our jobs. Because work is now done in two week intervals, we have the flexibility to allow priorities to change. Agile has made it possible to complete major tasks like adding SCORM to Knowledge Guru, something that was not on our roadmap just a few months earlier. This would have been very difficult with an ADDIE or “Waterfall” methodology.”

–Sharon Boller, President and Chief Product Officer

Consider whether Kanban, Scrum, or a combination of the two make the most sense for your team.


Agile Learning Design for Beginners (Free White Paper)


Jennifer Bertram, Director of Instructional Design here at Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper on Agile Learning Design. In Agile Learning Design for Beginners, Jennifer gives a comprehensive introduction to one of her areas of expertise as a Director of Instructional Design: Agile. The white paper skips the buzzwords and gives a much needed overview of Agile methodology from the perspective of real instructional designers and managers.



Here’s an overview of the content covered in the white paper:

Why not ADDIE

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” In the past, we’ve assumed that instructional designers should not be seen or heard. We tell our clients or stakeholders, “Don’t look at what we’re doing. Wait until it’s built until you look.” But Agile instructional design is different. It’s about telling our stakeholders, “Come join me behind the curtain and work with me to create something great.” And this is just one of the many benefits of restructuring your processes to be more iterative… more agile. Jennifer will go into some of the benefits of Agile methodology over the traditional ADDIE model.

Managing the Work

Wanting to work incrementally, iteratively, and collaboratively is all well and good, but at some point you have to manage the work and timeline. It can seem daunting to do so using a whole new approach to work. The white paper will give you the manager’s perspective of Agile Learning Design. Jennifer breaks down Kanban methodology and shows you how our Agile workflow looks and feels.

What “kind” of agile do you need?

Did you know that “Agile” is just a broad term for a variety of project management approaches? BLP’s Learning Services team uses Kanban, but the Product Development and Marketing teams both use their own variation of Scrum. The white paper includes an interview with President Sharon Boller where she discusses the pluses and minuses of the Scrum methodology. Use it to decide what approach to agile is right for your team.

Getting Started

Theories and diagrams are all well and good, but this white paper isn’t limited to the abstract. You will use it as a practical, hands-on guide to Agile Learning Design. At the end, you’ll find a series of questions and suggestions to help you get the conversation started at your organization.

Are you ready to “get Agile”? Download the white paper now!

How Much Do Corporate Learners Forget After Training?

This is an excerpt from our white paper, When Remembering Really Matters: Learning Strategies for Long-Term Retention. The white paper includes eight strategies to improve learning and remembering. Here is Part 2:

Remembering is Hard; Forgetting is Easy

No one says, “Hey. Let’s spend a bunch of time and money to create and implement a learning solution that no one will remember.” Yet every day stakeholders and designers make choices that sabotage the training effort and result in wasted dollars that produce no result. Learners take a course – and end up not applying what they learned because they don’t remember what they were taught. 

the forgetting curve

eddingerHerman Ebbinghaus was a psychologist who gained fame for his early studies in the late 1880s on memory. Based on his own research studies, he came up with the concept of the “forgetting curve.” He used his study data to create a curve that showed people will forget 90% of what they learn within 3 to 6 days unless learning is reinforced with multiple repetitions. Since then, thousands of studies have been done on spaced repetition, forgetting, memory, etc.

Will Thalheimer published a paper in 2010 that argues against Ebbinghaus’s global 90% statement. He points to these many subsequent studies – done in a more meaningful way – that show the percentage of forgetting is highly variable. It depends on numerous factors such as learners’ pre-existing knowledge, their motivation level, etc. However this still leaves the question:

What percentage of forgetting IS okay? 

Let’s be optimists and assume only a 30% loss in memory after a few days’ time. Which 30% of your learning content are you okay with people forgetting?

remembering in corporate learning

Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, vividly describes the remembering problem in his book, Brain Rules. Medina says “memory takes an almost ridiculous amount of time to settle into its permanent form.” He then points out that organizations (schools and businesses) make the situation worse when “learning is supplied in consecutive, uninterrupted glops…the probability for confusion is in- creased when content is delivered in unstoppable, unrepeated waves.”

Let’s be honest. Forgetting is a major problem. A significant portion of what organizations label as training fits Me- dina’s descriptions: it’s delivered as a single “glop,” and large volumes of it are delivered up at once with nothing repeated. The intent in these instances is efficiency, but the result is the opposite because people don’t remember well in these scenarios.


What Will Corporate Learners Remember from your Training?

This is an excerpt from our white paper, When Remembering Really Matters: Learning Strategies for Long-Term Retention. The white paper includes eight strategies to improve learning and remembering. Here is Part 1:


How confident are you that learners really remember what they learn from training delivered in your organization? When a week or a month has passed, how much of what they learned can they recall?

Some of you may respond by replying, “That’s not my priority,” which may be true. Sometimes the goal of training is not about changing learners’ knowledge or skill. Instead the goal is to verify that learners completed the training. Your organization needs to provide organizational proof of compliance or proof that they communicated information. In these instances, you may equate course completion with “ef- fective training.” The question of whether your learners will actually remember the content covered in the training a week or a month afterward is never asked.


moneystackBut what about times when remembering REALLY matters? Organizations typically have business challenges to address and growth goals to reach. Leaders frequently identify training as a required el- ement for meeting these challenges or driving growth, and organizations spend billions of dollars cre- ating and delivering these solutions. ASTD estimates that in 2012 organizations spent approximately 164.2 billion on employee training.

Is that money well spent, or is it wasted? Imagine that you are in charge of designing and imple- menting a learning solution that addresses one of the business problems on the next page. What would your solution look like?*

moneybagEmployee turnover in a pivotal role is over 20%; the goal is 10%

A thorough performance analysis pinpoints lack of skill and experience as one of the drivers of the unac- ceptably high turnover. How much money do you save the company if you can design mem- orable training…and how much do you cost the company if you design training that doesn’t work? (Answer: millions of dollars)

peopleiconA home dialysis equipment manufacturer recognizes revenue growth is stifled by three issues:

1) Patients select home therapy, complete the expensive train- ing for it, but opt out of the home therapy after only a few weeks. 2) The time to train a single patient takes too long. 3) Centers can only train one patient at a time on the therapy, which means only .65 patients per month get trained. They want to reduce the patient drop rate, cap the length of the training at four weeks, and double the number of patients trained in a month’s time. How do you redesign it to produce the required business result?

timeA company wants to roll out a brand new product in a brand new sector.

The sales and support teams are completely unfamiliar with the product offering, and the sector is new to them as well. To make things even more challenging, these teams support products across nine different product lines with new product releases rolling out approxi- mately every two months. How in the world do you get them to remember THIS product? What sales revenue is lost if you cannot produce training that is memorable to members of the sales and support teams?

hospitalHospital labs spend well into six figures to acquire lab equipment your company sells.

Your agreement specifies that you provide them with a customer support specialist until they achieve competency in its use. Each week that your customer support tech spends in a lab is a week the tech isn’t available to assist with a new installation. You don’t want to hire more techs; you want to reduce the time each tech needs to spend with a customer AND you want your customers’ ramp-up time to be reduced. How do you redesign the training to achieve these results? What’s the cost of trainees not remembering here?

phoneSomeone has a heart attack on your corporate campus and passes out.

Because you have a large campus with more than a dozen different buildings, the safety pro- tocol is to dial an internal number to report an emergency rather than calling 911. What’s the cost here if those who witness the emergency do not remember what number to dial for help? This heart attack really happened at one of our client sites, and the individual who witnessed it DID know what to do because she had completed the safety training we created…and re- membered it. Would your employees remember yours? Would your training save a life?

When Remembering Really Matters – New White Paper from Sharon Boller

Sharon Boller, President of Bottom-Line Performance, has authored a new white paper: When Remembering Really Matters: Learning Strategies for Long-Term Retention. It’s full of research, case studies, and advice for learning professionals ready to reduce the amount of information learners forget from all types of training.

Here’s what is covered in the white paper:

What will learners remember?


The question is not asked often enough in most organizations. Research shows us that most of what we learn is forgotten after a learning event, so what can we as learning professionals do to combat this in our designs?

The Cost of Not Remembering


Managers, Directors, and VP’s are painfully aware of what happens when critical training concepts are forgotten. ASTD estimates that in 2012, organizations invested $164.2 billion in employee training. How much of your training investment goes to waste?

Remembering is hard; forgetting is easy

You’ve probably heard of Herman Ebbinghaus’ famous “Forgetting Curve,” based on research done in the late 19th century. While the curve can approach 90% in terms of total information forgotten, more recent research shows that the Forgetting Curve is highly variable. Regardless of the exact percentage, What percentage of what we learn do YOU think is okay to forget?

Four Strategies to Foster Long-Term Retention

Sharon introduces four proven strategies that inhibit forgetting and enhance remembering. You’ll learn more about how to apply these strategies, and the research behind them, in the white paper:

  1. Provide frequent, spaced intervals of learning instead of “glops” or “unrepeated waves.”
  2. Provide multiple repetitions.
  3. Provide immediate feedback for mistakes, and make sure learners get it right before moving forward.
  4. Use stories to drive the learning experience.

All of these strategies are explained in detail within the white paper.

Learning comes before remembering


While the first part of the white paper focuses on remembering, part two is all about the learning. If employees never truly learn new knowledge or skill, they certainly will not remember it. Sharon introduces four strategies for learning that, coupled with the strategies for remembering, will lead to long-term retention.

  1. Balance the use of multimedia.
  2. Limit learner control in the course design.
  3. Personalize the experience as much as possible.
  4. Be ruthless in eliminating content.

Putting it all together

Perhaps most importantly of all, the white paper closes with a summary of five business challenges we solved for our clients using a combination of these strategies for learning and remembering.

Ready to change the way you design and deliver learning? Download the white paper now!

New Learning Game Design White Paper by Sharon Boller (Free Download)

Many of our readers are instructional designers looking to pick up some game design tips for their next project. Others are already avid game designers just looking for extra tips and advice. Wherever you are as a learning game designer, we are excited to release another free resource to help you hone your skills.

BLP president Sharon Boller has written a new white paper titled Using Game Mechanics and Game Elements in Learning Games. It explains, in clear terms, how to design games that will support your desired learning outcomes. Best of all, it uses real-life examples to show how game mechanics and game elements can be used in a practical setting.

Learning Game Design White Paper

You’ll Learn About:

  • Game mechanics, which are rules players follow in a game, and rules the game itself follows.
  • How to closely tie game mechanics to mirror the cognitive tasks learners will need to perform on the job.
  • Twelve common game elements, which are found in most commercial games and learning games.
  • How to choose the right game elements to include in a game based on players’ job type and characteristics.
  • Questions you can ask as a learning game designer to get the most out of your game.
  • Why it’s important to test the balance of game mechanics and game elements with play-testing.
  • Case studies from our work designing games for corporate clients

Download the White Paper

The white paper is available as a free download on the Knowledge Guru website. Click here to download… or just click the image above.

2013 Corporate Learning Trends: Where Are We Now? (White Paper)

In January, BLP President Sharon Boller published a white paper exploring the trends in the corporate learning landscape. She forecasted where she sees the trends going… while also revealing six “truths” about what the current state of training and development really is. The contrast is fascinating.

The white paper focused on 7 trends we expect to see grow in 2013 and beyond. We’re halfway through the year now, so it’s time to check in with these trends and see how the industry has progressed over the last several months. Based on what we’ve seen through industry conferences (ASTD ICE 2013, Training 2013 anyone?), recent client work and the latest eLearning Guild research reports, Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities remains on track with most of its predictions. You can download the white paper here.

Learning Trends, Technologies, and Opportunities - White Paper by Sharon Boller

Click the image to download the white paper!

Revisiting Sharon’s 2013 Learning Trends

1. Less desktop and more mobile…but not that fast. Clients still want desktop eLearning, but they want it to work on a tablet, too. We’ve been asked to use rapid authoring tools to design iPad friendly courses, for example. Most people who demo Knowledge Guru are quick to make sure it is HTML… and not Flash. Even if companies are not deploying mobile learning solutions now, they hope to be doing so in the next 2 or 3 years. Read more.

2. Fewer full-sized courses. More learning snacks, ePubs, videos, and reference tools. Almost every eLearning project has a performance support component now. For example, one of our largest active projects includes a flashcard app and other mobile performance support component to help sales reps practice what they’ve learned. Learning and development is more aware of the forgetting curve than ever before… and people are motivated to make sure learners do not forget what they’ve learned so quickly. Read more.

3. Less focus on the LMS; More focus on Tin Can API. The survey results in the recent eLearning Guild research report, Evaluating and Selecting a Learning Management System, are telling. While SCORM is still the most important standard for practicioners, over 68% of respondents rated Tin Can API (now called Experience API) as either “Extremely Important” or “Very Important” as an LMS feature. Another 22% rated Experience API “Somewhat important,” meaning 90%of respondents are considering Experience API when selecting an LMS. Experience API just reached version 1.0 in 2013, so most LMS’s are not yet compatible. But with 90% of LMS customers considering Experience API as an important feature, we expect to see a huge spike Experience API-compatible LMS’s as the year progresses. Read more.

4. Less Tell; More Games and Gamification. According to a recent report by global research company Markets and Markets, gamification is a $421 million dollar market today… and it will grow $5.5 billion by 2018. Those of us in the L&D field have been reading bold gamification predictions like this all the time, but how is it translating to true gamification adoption? We have fielded more requests from clients for “gamified eLearning courses” than ever before. Even when traditional eLearning is still the primary delivery method, clients are turning to gamification to make it memorable. The high level of interested we received in the Knowledge Guru Game Creation Wizard at ASTD ICE is also telling. Read more.

5. Less PPT-only; More Cool Interactive Tools within Lectures. We use our weekly #TalkTech chat on Twitter to unearth new trends and tools. One gem we discovered and discussed was Nearpod, a fantastic iPad app for instructor-led courses. Nearpod enhances the classroom experience by allowing the instructor to guide a lesson on the participant’s iPads. Nearpod has primarily been marketed to the K-12 sector, but we have hosted Nearpod training sessions for our corporate clients in 2013. The demand for interactive tools like these continues to grow. Read more.

6. Less Formal Training; More Informal Social Learning. “Social learning” is tough. Of all the trends we predicted in 2013, informal/social learning as a true company initiative is growing the slowest. Interest in fostering informal learning is still strong… but most L&D professionals are still looking to gather more information on how to leverage these tools in a “controlled” way. For more information on how to integrate better social learning into an organization, consider attending the eLearning Guild’s online forum, Collaborative and Social Learning: Best Practices for Learning With Others. Sharon and I will present a session on our #TalkTech social learning chat as part of the virtual event. Read more.

7. Less Trainers; More Community Managers and Curators. Managing a community of learners is still foreign to many trainers. Transitioning from delivering eLearning to creating a portal of resources (which may include eLearning) where learners can take what they need can be difficult. It’s happening, sure… but not in a way that is radically reshaping our work environments. Read more.

Less Trainers; More Community Managers and Curators

This is an excerpt from Sharon Boller’s newest white paper, Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities. The white paper describes today’s learning landscape… then predicts 7 trends for the next 12 – 18 months. Here is Trend 7:

Less Trainers; More Community Managers and Curators

Lots of us are already curating content for others. At BLP, we’re doing it with learning technologies, processes and tools. We “follow” several others in the learning and development community who curate content – via blogs, online newspapers, orby sharing links to resources via Twitter.

Here’s a few:

RJ Jacquez consistently “curates” content about mLearning. He writes a blog called The mLearning Revolution Blog and he publishes a weekly online “paper” (using theservice that aggregates blog articles on mLearning from others who have expertise in the topic. He shares content with people who follow him on Twitter.

At BLP, we curate content on learning, categorizing it for easy viewing on our blog called Lessons on Learning. (yes, you’re already here!) We share out content via our Twitter account: @BLPIndy.

BLP Lessons on Learning Blog

Lots of other folks have started online newspapers to share content on a specific theme or topic. Web tools such as and let anyone start an online newspaper. They identify thought leaders whose blogs and tweets provide the content for their online papers. Chris Saeger, the executive director of the National Association of Simulations and Games, publishes a weekly online paper about learning games and other related educational topics.

Formal training can’t (and never did) meet the needs of a workforce. Information changes quickly – and often we need information, not training. Numerous tools now exist for rapidly creating and sharing content with other like-minded people.

Instead of remaining afraid of social learning tools, organizations – fed by a younger workforce that is already well versed with many of the tools – can begin to use these tools to make it easier for employees to find, locate, and share content and ideas with each other. When privacy IS a concern, there are tools for that as well – enabling companies to keep content behind their own walls. The eMagazine shared as part of Trend #3 is a good example of a tool that curates content and makes it
easy to share out on a specific topic… without sharing it to the entire online universe.

The skills of today’s trainers need to morph to include skills at content curation and distribution. Rather than training people formally, the curator will gather useful resources and content, organize it well, and distribute it out. They will oversee an ever-changing landscape as opposed to trying to define and formalize everything people need to know and do.

Click the image to download the white paper.
Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities White Paper

That’s a wrap on our white paper excerpts. Feel free to download the entire white paper now.

Less Formal Training; More Informal Social Learning

This is an excerpt from Sharon Boller’s newest white paper, Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities. The white paper describes today’s learning landscape… then predicts 7 trends for the next 12 – 18 months. Here is Trend 6:

Less Formal Training; More Informal, Social learningTwitter chats, Twitter lists, massive open online courses (MOOCs), YouTube channels and blogs devoted to highly specific topics, resources such as, CodeAcademy, etc. are all examples of resources that enable people to build highly customized “personal learning networks” for themselves. Given that the average employee only spends 31 hours PER YEAR in formal training, staying current requires employees to develop skills in social learning tools and strategies.

Social learning has been touted by a brave few for a long time – Jane Bozarth and Jay Cross are two big names who’ve been beating the social learning and informal learning drum for the past few years. The official recognition of the power of social learning – and the adoption of social learning initiatives inside organizations — has been even more glacier-like than mobile uptake. As more people who were born after 1980 get into the work world, though, social learning initiatives will become more and more commonplace – because this generation lives and breathes social.

What it might look like:

At BLP, we are our own “Learning Lab.” This means we test out new tools and techniques on ourselves before advocating their use by clients. Twitter chats have been around almost as long as Twitter – and they are now occurring with greater frequency. We started a chat in January 2012 called #TalkTech. The goal was to promote conversation and increase understanding and awareness of learning technologies that we – and our clients – might find useful. We host the talk on Twitter to encourage participation from non-BLPers. That’s right – we WANT the perspective of outsiders, who can share technologies and ideas with us… and we want the ability to share our perspectives, too.

The premise is pretty simple. We have a “content curator” who monitors a “hashtag” we titled #TalkTech. Anyone – BLPer or larger world community member – can submit links to articles about learning technologies, tools, or ideas using this hashtag. The curator selects the best three each week, publishes them to a blog, and we meet every Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. EST to discuss the three articles.

We’ve discovered a ton of new tools via these talks and we’ve also picked up new ideas for methods we could employ. (See a recent blog on how Jerry Seinfeld writes a joke and the correlation to interaction design.)

Participating in the weekly chats is easy using a web tool called TweetChat.


If you miss the live chat – no problem. You can get a transcript of the conversation via another great web tool called Storify, which lets you create an online transcript of your chat. Storify lets you create stories from a variety of social media resources.

Storify - transcript of social learning chats

Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities White Paper
Click the image to download the white paper.

Check back next week for Trend 7, or download the entire white paper now.

Less PPT Only; More Cool Interactive Tools Within Lectures

This is an excerpt from Sharon Boller’s newest white paper, Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities. The white paper describes today’s learning landscape… then predicts 7 trends for the next 12 – 18 months. Here is Trend 5:

Less PPT Only; More Cool Interactive Tools Within Lectures

This trend loosely goes with the trend of gamifying things, but the focus is on tools facilitators can use when presenting live workshops, webinars, etc. to enhance the experience and keep learners engaged. A plethora of tools have emerged courtesy of mobile devices. Some examples:

  • Poll Everywhere is a web application that lets you embed polls into PPTs that people can respond to using their mobile phone. This tool has been around for a few years now, and I’ve seen uptake gradually increase.

Poll Anywhere - Interactive lecture tool

  • NearPod is an iPad app that allows classroom teachers in K-16 and trainers in the corporate world to leverage the iPad during a live lesson or presentation. Students and teachers (or presenters and workshop or presentation attendees) download the NearPod app. When students arrive at class, the teacher provides a code that students input into the app. This opens the interactive presentation. The facilitator can push out content to them – and have students share work with each other, maintaining 100% control over the students’ iPads. We recently shared this tool with a client and incorporated it into one of their sales meetings with sales reps and customers. It was a major home run in terms of user perception.NearPod - Interactive Lecture Tool

Numerous other apps exist that can be used as part of classroom activities. A couple we like:

  • Penultimate – which lets people use their iPads as drawing tools and email their drawings. Great for small group work in a classroom situation. Drawings get emailed to the facilitator, who can share them… or iPads can be directly connected to LCD projectors.
  • iCardSort – which lets people do an electronic equivalent of a Post-It and flip charting exercise using their iPads– emailing results to each other and themselves. (Very cool!)
Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities White Paper
Click the image to download the white paper.

Check back next week for Trend 6, or download the entire white paper now.